"Help us hype Elvis," proclaim Stiff on an inside sheet. Well they don't seem to be doing too badly themselves. 'Course, if you like posters composed of parts of music weeklies, then stroll on. I remember reading some high-up in a record company explaining in great detail how Neil Young's image was the fact that he didn't have an image, the "anti-image," if you like. Funny, though, how some of the best acts start life as a doodle on a record company exec's blotter — the example that comes straight to mind is Brinsley Schwartz. And it's all worth it for Elvis Costello, too.
But Elvis Costello? I remember when this geezer was strutting his stuff fronting one of the best pub bands in London, Flip City. This album, following a swift change of name and band, doesn't represent too much of a change from the sort of thing Flip City were doing. They're all Costello originals, and they're all excellent.
Blast off with "Welcome To The Working Week," a short (just over a minute) intro that sticks in the mind — he sings "Welcome to my working week ..." anyway. "Miracle Man" follows, mixing a fine song with coarse, raw rhythm guitar, a touch of echo on the voice, bass you feel rather than hear, and good lyrics, viz.: "Why do you have to say that there's always someone that can do it better than I can..." The changes in "No Dancing" merge with a Spector-like, almost cliched backing track, whilst "Blame It on Cain" has Elvis U.K. riding the sophisticated beat, an American feel to the rhythm section (Now who could it be ...?) underpinning Costello's vocal mixture of Van Morrison, Graham Parker and Bruce Springsteen into a style truly his own.
One of my fave 45's of '77 follows, "Alison," you could almost hear Lowell George singing it if you're that way inclined, and the neat hook of an outro gives the album its title. Next to the run-off is "Sneaky Feelings," a riffy upbeat tuneola that'll stay with you hours after.
Side Two jerks into activity with "(The Angels Wanna Wear My) Red Shoes," good harmonies in there somewhere, followed by "Less Than Zero," the track that graced the interesting Bunch Of Stiffs sampler. "Mystery Dance" is shoved in next to prove that Elvis is King, and "Pay It Back" boasts Elvis telling us: "I tried so hard just to be myself / But I keep on fading away.." Best cut of all is saved for penultimate positioning, it's "I'm Not Angry," with a great intro, well-sussed guitar throughout and a chorus that sticks in the mind like pictures in a book. The song also contains the best line: "I got this camera clicking in my head..." "Waiting For The End Of The World" closes, a little more bizarre than elsewhere and enough to tempt a return to Side One.
Superb record. Buy it, borrow it, steal it etc. etc.